There were plenty of "oohs" and "ahhs" to go around as Quaker Valley Middle School students made their way through the halls of their brand new school building.
From the size of the school to the comfort of new chairs, students who entered the $26.5 million renovations for the first time Tuesday were altogether pleased. Some even snapped cell phone and camera photos to capture it all.
"It's really different," said Franzi Nace, a seventh-grade student. "I feel like I'm going to get lost."
"The chairs are just awesome. They bounce back and forth," added Travis Wiehe, a seventh grader, who also liked the hooks on the side of the desks made for laptops.
The seventh graders toured the building Tuesday, a day after eighth graders visited the new school. Sixth graders will catch a first glimpse today.
Students are finding lockers, moving belongings and taking tours prior to leaving for winter break, which begins Thursday for middle school students only.
Tina Vojtko, district spokeswoman, said the early break will give teachers a little extra time to pack.
Students are scheduled to begin classes in the school on Monday, Jan. 7.
Renovation of the school built in 1926 began in the summer of 2011, a little behind schedule, after bids that came in higher than expected were rejected. School officials estimate rebidding the project saved the district $4 million.
Sixth graders have been housed at Osborne Elementary during construction while students in grades 7 and 8 attended classes at Anthony Wayne School in Ambridge. They'll return to a new integrated arts wing for band, chorus, arts, Family Consumer and IT classes; a new wellness center complete with fitness equipment; and a new 500-seat auditorium.
Other new features include a new heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems, artificial turf and a new retaining wall between the field and Route 65.
Watching Tuesday as students toured the building, Middle School Principal Sean Aiken couldn't help but share in some of their excitement.
"It's awesome. It's beautiful," he said of the school. "This is going to be such a great space for teachers and for students. I think they're really going to be able to expand what they do."
Aiken said something as simple as participating in after-school and extracurricular activities will make a huge difference. Students were bused to school and back home while attending Anthony Wayne, unable to stay put in their building. They will not only be able to stay, but will also be encouraged to connect with some type of extracurricular activity. More students will be bicycling and walking, with only about one-third riding the bus, Aiken said.
"To go to Anthony Wayne for a year, then to come here, your awareness grows all the much more. Your resources are unlimited in this place."
The Quaker Valley School District invites the community to experience the newly renovated Quaker Valley Middle School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, during an Open House Celebration. The middle school is located at 618 Harbaugh St., Sewickley. For more information, click here.